The Trump administration is proposing a new rule that, if implemented, would make asylum seekers ineligible for work permits if they entered the U.S. illegally.
United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the federal agency tasked with managing the country’s immigration system, is introducing new employment rules for migrants. Namely, the agency is aiming to bar work permits for asylum applicants who crossed the border illegally, and also applicants who have committed a felony or a number of misdemeanors, including driving under the influence.
The proposal is intended to force asylum seekers, who currently make up the bulk of migrants arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border, to arrive at a legal port of entry instead of crossing the border illegally.
In addition to denying work authorization to illegal aliens and those with serious criminal records, USCIS is proposing to lengthen the time it takes for eligible applicants to secure a work permit. Currently, asylum applicants must wait roughly five months to become qualified and able to apply for a permit. The agency wishes to extend this five-month period to a year.
The chief of USCIS says the reforms are needed to stop asylum seekers from taking advantage of the U.S. immigration system.
“Our immigration system is in crisis. Illegal aliens are gaming our asylum system for economic opportunity, which undermines the integrity of our immigration system and delays relief for legitimate asylum seekers in need of humanitarian protection,” Ken Cuccinelli, the acting director of the agency, said in a statement released Wednesday.
“USCIS must take steps to address pull factors encouraging aliens to illegally enter the United States and exploit our asylum framework. These proposed reforms are designed to restore integrity to the asylum system and lessen the incentive to file an asylum application for the primary purpose of obtaining work authorization” Cuccinelli continued.
There will be a few exceptions to the new rules. Immigrants who reached the border at a legal port of entry, and applicants who are already living in the U.S., will not be affected by the change.
The move is the latest by the Trump administration to manage the illegal immigration crisis at the southern border by eliminating a key incentive. For a long period of time, migrants were able to enter U.S. territory quickly by simply crossing the border illegally, where they would then immediately lodge an asylum claim. They were then able to work, sending remittances back to their families living abroad, while their asylum claims lingered in the backlogged immigration court system.
The Trump administration has been able to mitigate these incentives through a series of programs, such as Remain in Mexico, metering, and adding roadblocks to work authorization.
Earlier this month, the Trump administration proposed charging a fee for asylum applications, and increasing fees for work permits, DACA renewals, and citizenship applications.
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